I spent last Friday with Anna at her college orientation. I was expecting a whole lot of info-dump and maybe a misty moment or two, but I surprised myself. I didn't get much more than a lump in my throat here and there and not a single tear fell.
Any misty eyes I got were in relation to her reaching this milestone in her life. Her graduation ceremony is this Saturday. From there, it's ten weeks until college move-in day. I always knew these days were coming, and they're finally here. If you've been reading my blog you already know how fiercely proud of her I am and will continue to be.
But there was another reason I didn't dissolve into a puddle of tears on Friday; I was too busy gaping in horror at all the parents who did exactly that. I can understand some mom tears and a stoic clearing of a dad throat over the prospect of your kid leaving home, but some of these parents were just an absolute mess throughout the entire day. I mean the entire damn day.
It made me feel like there was something wrong with me. Am I the only parent in the world who's excited to send their kid off to college? Maybe it's because my college years we're so incredibly transformative for me and honestly, some of the best years of my life. I found myself there, away from my parents over-sheltering, suffocating arms, and grew into an entirely new person that I like a whole lot better.
I want Anna to embrace every minute of her college experience, dip her toe in every pool of knowledge, join a dozen clubs and activities (paring them down to a select few, of course) and chill in her dorm room with Netflix, popcorn and a solid group of friends. The last thing I want is for her to be mopey and miserable, missing her family or carrying a load of resentful guilt courtesy of her clinging mother.
And don't get me started on the parents who huffed and puffed every time a college administrator reminded them that their students were now adults and as such, were entitled to privacy. We had a mom go off on them because they don't have an online portal especially for parents that allows them to see their child's grades on a daily basis, like in High School. We had other concerned parents who asked if they would get a notification should their child visit campus Health Services for a pregnancy or STD test.
I felt like standing up and beating on a gong as I shouted:
"Hello??? Your kid is an adult now. They are entitled to their own life. And they don't have to tell you a damn thing about it."
Anna and I talk openly about a lot of stuff. I'd like to think that if she's facing a difficult situation at college, or if I ask her what her grades look like, she'll tell me all about it.
But I know it's up to her now. It's all up to her now.
What she does, what she narrowly avoids - or worse, doesn't - those triumphs and mistakes are all hers. And they're all hers to share, or not.
I remember when she was a toddler, we had a family up the block whose kids were slightly older. I'd see them running all over the neighborhood, riding bikes, sledding in the winter time, laughing and shouting. I remember thinking how hard it must be for their mother, to let them run around and not have a watchful eye on them every single minute. My logical mind knew that of course, my kids would be crossing the street unassisted and running around like hooligans someday. But my heart curled up and wailed at the thought of them being at large, without me guarding their back.
They grew, and so did I, gradually letting them go. Sometimes even giving them a nudge. Sometimes even forcing them to go because I knew that despite their objections, going would to help them grow more.
That's where I stand today. Anna is ready to go. I am ready for Anna to go.
Will I cry at graduation? and On Move-In Day? You betcha. But it won't be for long. And it won't be for anything I think I've lost.